How does the narrator name these characters? What is your response? Why do so many Christians tend to act as if such fundamentals do not apply to them, since they are neither loving nor receptive? What elitist arguments do Christians sometimes put forward? Regardless of how energetic the discussion has been, getting personal will be tough. Why or why not? Hamilton offers many springboards for discussion, htting upon perplexing questions for families as well as individuals. 8. [p. 40]. What unholy alliances between Christian faith and cultural values or political ideologies are present in our own society? Keller identifies three “barriers” to faith: intellectual, personal, and social [p. xii-xiii]. Define, as objectively and carefully as possible, the three approaches to try to deal with the divisiveness of religion: to outlaw it [p. 5-6], to condemn it [p. 7-13], and to restrict it the private sphere of life [p. 13-18]. Keller says, “Every human community holds in common some beliefs that necessarily create boundaries, including some people and excluding others from its circle” [p. 39]. 3. Explaining why believing in something makes sense will make little or no sense if my explanation is not in categories my companion can understand and appreciate. Combine general and specific questions to foster interaction—and answer them yourself first to give an example of vulnerability, For example, “How will this passage affect your willingness to take risks?” Or, “How can you live as though [the passage’s main point] is true?” Or, “How can we remind one another of these things?”. Keller says that the Gnostic gospels, not the canonical gospels, “‘suck up’ to the ‘powers that be’” [p. 105]. Where did they learn this? What plans should you make? “We should not be surprised to discover it was the Bible-believing religious establishment who put Jesus to death” [p. 59]. 5. 7. 15. Some Christians may find this troubling, wanting to see Jesus as (super)heroic in every way—how would you answer their concerns? “Violence done in the name of Christianity is a terrible reality and must be both addressed and redressed. 9. The workers are making between seven and eight dollars a day. 5. To what extent do non-Christians find your reconciliation of the two compelling? Christianity helped Africans to become renewed Africans, not re-made Europeans” [p. 41]. To what extent would their definitions apply to you—or to your Christian friends? 18. Mark is saying, ‘Alexander and Rufus vouch for the truth of what I am telling, if you want to ask them’” [p. 101]. Have you ever heard this understanding of the miraculous before? “We should criticize Christians when they are condemning and ungracious to unbelievers. We're in chapter two of Tim Keller's Making Sense of God this week. In response to the objection that a good God could not possibly allow hell, Keller responds: “Modern people inevitably think that hell works like this: God gives us time, but if we haven’t made the right choices by the end of our lives, he casts our souls into hell for all eternity. 2. If you haven’t heard this before, what does this suggest about the church’s ability to speak biblical truth into our post-Christian world? Your group may float on the momentum of observation and interpretation like a shiny soap bubble on a breezy, spring day, yet that bubble can pop as soon as you transition to application. What’s wrong? In giving specific examples of how Christianity has used self-correction to stop injustice and oppression, Keller mentions: William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery; Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement; Desmond Tutu and the end of apartheid in South Africa; Catholic leadership in the Solidarity Movement in Poland; the martyrs Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany. It would have saved me so much headache, heartache, and trouble as I have sought to make sense of how to understand what the Bible teaches about God, and how to reconcile the enemy-loving Jesus with the enemy-killing God … Facts > faith, and therefore secularism is more logical and rational… His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. I also utilize Correlation which is also very helpful. 21. “Today’s outspoken believer,” Keller says, “may be tomorrow’s apostate, and today’s outspoken unbeliever may be tomorrow’s convert. Does it surprise you that “Christianity does not provide a reason for each experience of pain?” [p. 27]. Keller claims that the notion—“If Christianity is all it claims to be, shouldn’t Christians on the whole be much better people than everyone else?”—is actually based on a “mistaken belief” [p. 53]. 15. [p. 93-94] Why? Have you ever heard the charge that believing in hell makes you “narrow” [p. 80-81]? Which community’s beliefs lead it to demonize and attack those who violate their boundaries rather than treating them with kindness, humility, and winsomeness?” [p. 40]. What would such a safe place look like? The Church is Responsible for so Much Injustice. To what extent have you read about the opposing views of the historicity of the biblical documents? Welcome to the most uncomfortable part of your Bible study! Sociologist Robert Bellah finds that 80% of Americans are convinced that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious beliefs independent of any church or synagogue… that the most fundamental belief in American culture is that moral truth is relative to individual consciousness” [p. 70]. If you find that little or nothing in the world angers you, what does this say about you? [p. 38]. Do you agree? Do you agree they are flaws? Keller says that “Ian Barbour lays out four different ways that science and religion may be related to each other: conflict, dialogue, integration, and independence” [p. 88]. Pain and suffering actually bring these deep “God questions” to the fore front for many. Why or why not? To hold an opinion on God is indeed a celebration of the fact that if there is a Go- like intelligence it must be somewhat like our own (probably more open minded than most and certainly a better sense of humor) Any decent Bible study, whether individual or group-based, should be rooted in careful observation of the text. What impact has the shift from what was, a century ago, generally “a culture of belief” to today’s “culture of skepticism” had on Christian belief? How does Keller’s discussion of Sommerville’s example of the mugging highlight what our motivation for helping people should be? What plans do your small group need to make to create a safe place? In one sense God’s will is something that will always happen no matter what. Many nonbelievers have friends or relatives who have become ‘born again’ and seem to have gone off the deep end” [p. 56]. Keller quotes Macquarrie who argues that since science is based on the idea that all natural events are caused by other natural events, any sort of miracle “is irreconcilable with our modern understanding of both science and history.” Alvin Plantinga says, “Macquarrie perhaps means to suggest that the very practice of science requires that one reject the idea (e.g.) Many Christians might find this statement to be unsettling. Ryan and Peter blog at Knowable Word, where they help ordinary people learn to study the Bible. 9. That might be OK for a season, but eventually the responsibility of a leader is to bring people from a adult-child relationship to an adult-adult relationship. [p. 60-61]. You had your chance! St. Paul tells us that God raises up teachers and leaders in his Church. Give examples of rhetoric from the side of skepticism; from the side of Christian faith; from the side of faiths other than Christianity. Does this resonate with your sense of your fellow Christians? Well the truth is, God created you for five purposes. 8. If … 1. How would you respond to their concern? On pages 44-45, Keller argues that there is “no Christian culture,” but rather that Christianity maintains core orthodoxy while adapting to the culture of its followers. 3. What objections might skeptics raise? 7. “All this decisively refutes the idea that the gospels were anonymous, collective, evolving oral traditions. Keller covers a lot of ground, and references many philosophical concepts that some readers may not be familiar with. This also sheds light on why many Christians feel defensive about their faith. 15. C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see” [p. 37]… “If you say all truth-claims are power plays, then so is your statement… To see through everything is not to see. After drawing out your group’s observations, it’s time to dig in. How does Keller’s understanding of the biblical story of Lazarus and the rich man compare with how you’ve normally thought of it or heard it explained? Is this common knowledge among Christians? 17. 6. Do your non-Christian friends see their evaluation as based on a religious/ethical stance? To do so, you must master four types of Bible study discussion questions. When is confrontation appropriate? What is the significance of these ideas? In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die… [with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind” [p. 74]. Some might argue that the alternatives Keller presents are too extreme—plausible v. ridiculous and offensive. Which highlights will best serve the group? 4. How can a loving God send people to hell? Secularists will find it challenging to their worldview, while Christians will find it intensely rewarding. Might this list surprise some evangelical Christians? 9. All of these beliefs are foreign to many other cultures” [p. 39]. “On what basis,” Keller asks, “does the atheist judge the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust?” [p. 26] How is it possible to raise this issue to align oneself, or agree with, the skeptic rather than merely confront them? And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense. The very first question of your Bible study should be open, engaging, and linked to the main point of the passage. 11. Do you find this true in your personal experience? In some sections of the church, however, the opposite conclusion would be drawn. Why not? 6. How can we love one another while holding differing positions on this issue? Do you see yourself more as a patient in a hospital than a saint in a museum? ... Study One. 9. Yes, there is. You’re asking people to reshape their thinking and their lives according to the Word of God, and such requests are uncomfortable. For Christians: what saves us—our faith or Christ? 8. Why or why not? How has a biblical passion for social justice come to be seen by Christians as either a liberal or relativist concern? Have you ever heard someone say that miracles were easily believed by the “more primitive” people of biblical times? The Biblical picture is that sin separates us from the presence of God, which is the source of all joy and indeed of all love, wisdom, or good things of any sort. 16. But it needs to be overcome every time, and thus there is an even holier angel than the one of pain, that is the one of joy in God” [p. 66-67]. 12. Have their excuses been compelling? 7. If you are a non-Christian, how would you respond to this definition of hell? What are two ways in which it might improve? He joins us to discuss his (excellent) new book, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. What role has each played in your spiritual pilgrimage? You have no chance at faithful interpretation without first noticing what the Bible says. 16. Have you heard this objection to faith? Do you find this surprising? “Many people who take an intellectual stand against Christianity,” Keller says, “ do so against a background of personal disappointment with Christians and churches. Does this resonate with your sense of your neighbors and co-workers? Do you agree with this distinction? Science has Disproved Christianity. Do you agree? [p. 97-98]. Why or why not? Why or why not? Dawkins points to a survey that shows only 7% of scientists believe in God. Is this how you define hell to your non-Christian friends? Why then do many American middle-class evangelical Christians seem both indistinguishable from their non-Christian conservative neighbors and so profoundly comfortable with both Christianity and their middle-class consumerist lifestyle? 4. To what extent should Christians help people because they might be get saved as a result? I know none of them are like this. Do you think Christianity should be understood to be a form of moral improvement? We hope you find our discussion guide to The Reason for God helpful. 11. It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist” [p. 85]. Do you agree? “It cannot be overcome with platitudes like ‘Now don’t you see that violence won’t solve anything?’” [p. 74-75]. Do you find this compelling? Keller says that people should reflect more on the source of their idea that God is love [p. 82]. This is the archives of Ransom Fellowship (1981-2020). Why might this be? Is this the commonly understood meaning of love? Making Sense of the Bible is the book I wish I had read 20 years ago. A common image of hell in the Bible is that of fire. “This means,” Keller says, “every human culture has (from God) distinct goods and strengths for the enrichment of the human race… while every culture has distortions and elements that will be critiqued and revised by the Christian message, each culture will also have good and unique elements to which Christianity connects and adapts” [p. 45]. Last night seven of us gathered on our back patio to discuss the first half of the book. Is civility in the public square possible if this is correct? The Leader Guide contains everything needed to facilitate the study including session outlines, goals, prayers, discussion questions, key insights, and activities. What does Keller include in “All this”? Keller distinguishes between evolution as the idea that “complex life-forms evolved from less complex forms through a process of natural selection,” and “Evolution as an All-encompassing Theory,” which he argues is not science but philosophy [p. 87]. It is good for three reasons. Keller says, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints” [p. 54]. Can you think of a time when you used this argument inappropriately and hurt or angered someone? “We don’t reason with the other side; we only denounce” [p. xv]. How does this statement affect your faith? Timothy Keller discusses Making Sense of God in a Mere Fidelity podcast here. Once you begin a conversation, you give up a sense of control. “Because doubt and belief are each on the rise, our political and public discourse on matters of faith and morality has become deadlocked and deeply divided. 14. [p. 19]. What is the difference between being lovingly exclusive and narrow-mindedly oppressive? How does Keller describe the ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian Church? You see, you were made by God and you were made for God. Since we were originally created for God’s immediate presence, only before his face will we thrive, flourish, and achieve our highest potential. How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? Does it make you uncomfortable about being a theist? My wife and I developed a deck of custom playing cards to help with this exact problem. 8. What I like from this book is: - how clear and 'concise' the arguments are. How do we know which of the two we are actually trusting? Keller recommends that both skeptics and believers “look at doubt in a radically new way” [p. xvi]. If you hook your people early, they’ll feel compelled to participate. What does Keller identify as the flaw in each approach? As objectively as you can, restate in your own words those steps. What logical connector words move the argument forward? Why? 1. 12. Job’s story gives us a way to engage these questions with a more meaningful response than some find initially. 6. If not, can you see why some people might? Why? Have you ever heard excuses given for it by Christians wanting to defend the honor of their faith? Where have you noticed or encountered such approaches? That may seem fine for a while, but in the end, important questions remain unanswered and they never really go away. “They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. 5. Keller goes through a step-wise series of suggestions for reading the Bible after finding biblical texts that are culturally offensive [p. 109-113]. This is why listening is so important for Christians (and anyone else) who wants to be part of conversations about the things that matter most. Keller claims, “an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. “Ironically, the insistence that doctrines do not matter is really a doctrine itself” [p. 8]. David Richter, associate pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, and Dr. David Van Norstrand, medical student in the Mayo School of Medicine.). “It is one thing,” Keller says, “to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot speak to any others. This interest is one dear to the hearts and spiritual yearnings of many postmodern Christians. And, second, God reveals His will through His Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105; see also Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Peter 1:19). Leading a group Bible study is deeply rewarding, but let’s be honest: it’s also a little terrifying. Where do you believe this divide stems from? [p. 59]. My feeling is that 'Making Sense of God' goes a step backwards and addresses questions and dilemas for readers whom the idea of God is distant and perhaps have not though much about it and dismissed the idea of God. Science has disproved Christianity. How have you challenged those ideas? Love to see something like this integrated into Logos! When God doesn’t make sense, remember that God has a plan for your life that you may not know or understand, but it is a perfect plan. Ransom Fellowship was founded by Denis and Margie Haack in 1981. In fact, it would go the drunk one better: it would insist that because the keys would be hard to find in the dark, they must be under the light” [p. 85-86]. The culture wars are taking their toll. What has been your personal experience with Christians and churches—have you been disappointed or wounded? We only become ourselves in love, yet healthy love relationships involve mutual, unselfish service, a mutual loss of independence” [p. 48]. To what extent do you know this experientially? Were you happy with your response? 2. Why or why not? 3. Or honor members who serve in some way over many years? How does this correspond to the claims of miracles we sometimes hear about today? But at the same time, robust, orthodox belief in the traditional faiths is growing as well” [p. ix]. As human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Because “all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to those of others,” Keller argues that we must ask, “which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ?” [p. 19-20]. If that is true, what effect would it have had on the original audience. When you discuss the work of God to conform us to the image of Christ, any tension you feel is evidence of progress. “For the record,” Keller states, “I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory” [p. 94]. Keller says, “The typical criticisms by secular people about the oppressiveness and injustices of the Christian church actually come from Christianity’s own resources for critique of itself” [p. 61]. Study Questions 1. Do you find the three reasons amounting to a compelling argument? There is no excusing it” [p. 56]. [p. 77-78]. 2. Since Keller “was always looking for that third camp,” he says he “became interested in shaping and initiating new Christian communities” [p. xiii]. Which was the one you were taught as a child? Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives. It would mean that most of the classic Christian teachings—Jesus’ deity, atonement, and resurrection—are mistaken and based on legends” [p. 98]. 19. 14. by Denis Haack. What reasons did they give? Where do you find yourself now? Why? 6. 2. Only then is it safe and fair to disagree with it. The process of decision-making includes making a judgment about an attitude or action. Have friends raised ideas they garnered from The Da Vinci Code, arguing that though the story is fictional, the ideas behind it are true? How would you respond? Does this surprise you? Does Keller’s response surprise you? What religious stance or ethical criteria have you found your unbelieving friends using to evaluate Christian faith? Speaking to believers, Keller argues, “Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive” [p. xvii]. How does this make you feel as a non-Christian? When we choose to make decisions based on wisdom alone, we are exercising common sense. The Bible declares sin’s existence and the human heart displays it. In recent years some Western leaders particularly in the UK and US have argued that the basic values that undergird liberal democracy are shared by all people in every culture. Should Christians take the lead in demonstrating civility in the public square? 2. In an effort to further that, Ransom Fellowship has prepared detailed reflection and discussion questions for each section and chapter of the book. In an earlier book, The Reason for God, the author made a case for Christianity; Making Sense of God starts further back, addressing people who strongly doubt that any version of religion or faith makes sense or has anything of value to offer the contemporary world. It contains everything needed for the study, including session plans, discussion questions, and multiple format options. As the poor souls fall through space, they cry out for mercy, but God says ‘Too late! For example, when observing Acts 19:1-10, don’t ask, “What baptism did the Ephesian disciples receive?” Ask, “What experience of Christianity did the Ephesian disciples have before Paul arrived?”, Don’t ask, “What was the first thing Paul did when he arrived in Ephesus?” Ask, “How does Paul interact with the Ephesian disciples?”. How would you present each flaw to a skeptic who is making the argument? This article was adapted from their series on how to lead effective Bible studies. His book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, is must-reading, whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian. “The gospel narratives,” Keller says, “all show that Jesus did not face his approaching death with anything like the aplomb and fearlessness that was widely expected in a spiritual hero” [p. 28] How does this change your view of Christ? Though we should never give up trying to pray, it can be extremely difficult to pray when we are hurting. How satisfying is your resolution? What does this say about you? The first five minutes of your Bible study portend what’s to come. This Leader Guide, designed for group use with Making Sense of the Bible Book and DVD, features Adam Hamilton discussing his ideas in six sessions. ... Download Their Eyes Were Watching God Study Guide. If you are a visual person, and you imagine science and religion as two circles, how will they interact/intersect? Sure, you’ll lose some control if you temporarily set aside your lectern to foster interaction. Emotions and rhetoric are intense, even hysterical” [p. xv]. Why? How does the cross transform the question of evil and suffering in the world? Of talking to people who question whether intelligent people can “ take the lead in demonstrating civility in the angers... Then, seems unavoidable ” [ p. 8 ] scenario: Imagine you wake up biblical?! 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